Chapter 2: On Different Terms
In the marble halls of the grand Hyrule Castle, a young man paced the corridor in front of a large, iron wrought door, his sword banging uncomfortably on his leg.
He looked the same as any other of the numerous Hylian Guard, with the iron armor bearing the symbols of the Royal Family, a helmet covering his face from view, and the large spear he held in his left hand. But despite his common appearance, he was far above the rank of a regular soldier.
Link halted his impatient walk and stood stationary before the door, muttering a prayer under his breath. The matters happening behind the door did not concern him, yet he felt great curiosity. His duty, of course, was greater than his curiosity, and so he stood before the door for two painful hours, awaiting the people within.
"Farore, Goddess of Courage, hear me in my time of need," Link murmured, crossing his iron fists. "Please stop Vandellus' march forward… protect the people of Hyrule from the attacks. Please prevent us from going to war, so that the soldiers might stay with their loved ones… You may send me off to war, I have no family, but please, spare the lives of the others."
Link sighed as he dropped his hand to his side and stared straight ahead. He wasn't in any hurry to die, true, but it was better for him to die than for men with families to waste their lives. Yes, he was willing to give up his life if it meant that the whole of Hyrule remained safe.
"I can only hope that the union between Her Majesty and Prince Edward will give us enough military power to defeat Vandellus, if they ever reach our beloved land," Link murmured to himself. "…How very strange to think that Her Majesty and I were once good friends…"
He stood there, contemplating random thoughts, ranging from his latest sword learnings to the childhood memories of when he first began training. None of his thoughts even wandered to Zelda, only the teachings of the sword and other crafts of war.
It seemed like an eternity before the door finally swung open and members of the Royal Council filed out, looks of great content plastered on their faces. Link knew that whatever had just happened, the greedy council members had triumphed in. Usually this was a bad sign.
Come forth last was a man, tall and thick around the middle. His black graying hair was tied back into a ponytail. Scars crisscrossed a rugged face, and smoldering gray eyes peered out from beneath thick brows. His black armor and chain mail clanked together with every step he took, and the massive sword on his back waited to be drawn by its master.
"Link," the man said to the young soldier.
Immediately Link straightened up and struck a salute, awaiting orders from the fierce looking man. "Yes, Commander?"
"At ease," John replied, staring at his pupil. "We must wait for His Majesty and the Princess to come forth. We are to accompany them to the throne room and stand guard while Prince Edward comes forth."
Link made a face behind his helmet, glad that his teacher couldn't see his intense dislike for the foreign prince. He had always thought that Edward was nothing but a show-off, and even after being away from Hyrule for five years for training, he still had not changed his opinion about the young prince.
"Yes sir," Link muttered bitterly. How could the King want his daughter to marry a boy? Edward was only thirteen, far younger than the eighteen year old Princess.
Sensing his student's bitterness, John placed a fond hand on Link's shoulder and his fierce eyes softened. "You know as well as I that Her Highness can only marry one of noble blood. You and I are nothing but specks of dirt in their presence. You were friends when you were children, but the circumstances have vastly altered. You two are no longer children… You changed into a young man fitting of my station, and she grew into the Princess that she was always meant to be. You two are on far different levels of society."
Heaving a heavy sigh, Link looked into his 'Father's' eyes and knew he was right. He and Zelda- no, the Princess could no longer act familiar with each other. He had known the changes that would undoubtedly take place when he returned after he had left for five years of training
"Link, five years from the palace has changed you," John began, "When you returned a week ago, I could hardly recognize you! You are the man worthy of succeeding me, and you shall when I pass. True, you and Her Grace have exchanged letters for the last five years, but now that you have returned, it is time to act as you would when you succeed me. Do you understand, my boy?"
Link slowly nodded, the sense of duty placed upon his shoulders. "Thank you, Father."
John smiled and embraced the boy who was as good as a son in his arms. His expression of fierceness returned as he stared into Link's eyes. "Link, remove that helmet, you do not have to wear it. You do know that you could have worn your Captain's armor, so why the armor of a regular soldier?"
Link carefully pulled off the helmet, revealing the handsome, carved features of a young man. His eyes no longer held the same carefree quality in them, instead they were piercing, as though a single look into the brilliant blues could send the enemy fleeing for their lives.
"I'm sorry, Father. I feel that I am not worthy to wear such yet. During my years in training, I wore armor such as this, and I grew accustomed to it," Link replied, frowning to himself.
Just as John was about to speak once more, two people emerged from the council chambers. One was a large man with graying blonde hair, clad in the bright reds and blues of Royalty. The other was a young woman about Link's own age.
She wore a flowing white gown of fine material. Her long golden hair cascaded down her back, and atop her head she wore a tiara of pure gold with a large emerald inset into it. Her figure was extremely beautiful. Her face, elegantly carved, held an expression of utmost regality and pride. Her beautiful features were only emphasized by violet eyes that held a look of infinite wisdom.
This young woman, out of the many that Link had seen, was the most beautiful of maidens.
He and his teacher bowed to the pair, and upon rising, Link saw that the woman's eyes were upon him. He kept his eyes to the ground as the regal looking man spoke.
"Ah, John, who is this strapping young lad?" the man boomed, smiling lightly. His blue eyes sparkled with mirth as he studied Link with great care.
"Your Highness, you remember my son, Link Greene," John said, smiling, "He has just returned from training under Master Titas."
"Oh hoh!" the King boomed, laughing, "So this is little Link, is it? Well, he has certainly grown into quite the man! I have no doubt that he will be a great Commander, just as you are, John."
"You flatter him, Your Majesty," John said, smiling. He turned to Link and gave him a glare to speak.
"It is quite good to be back in my homeland once again, serving his Majesty," Link spoke, eyes still to the ground.
"What a delightful young man," King Harkinian boomed, "I am sure that you remember my daughter, Zelda, Link?"
Link stood, rooted to the spot with shock as blue met violet. For a moment, he couldn't believe the king's words. There was no way that the annoying little Zelda could have grown into such a beautiful young woman! But one look into her eyes, and he knew it was true.
"It is good to see you again, Sir Link," the Princess spoke, her voice melodious. "I hope that you have been well the past few years."
"It is… Good to see you as well, Majesty," Link replied, averting his gaze once again to the ground. "I have been well these past years. What of you?"
"I am well, Sir Link, I am well," Zelda whispered, "I do hope that we might sit down do some catching up when the chance arises. But I fear as of late, I am very busy, I apologize."
"Yes, hopefully…" Link murmured.
John, sensing the awkwardness between the two childhood friends, spoke out.
"Shall we go unto the Throne room? I feel that Prince Edward might be awaiting Her Majesty's presence. We do not want to keep him waiting, do we?"
"Aye, let us go," King Harkinian continued. He threw a quick glance to Link, smiling. "You will be joining us, Sir Link?"
Link simply nodded. How he was going to hate every moment being in the same room with that boastful Prince.
Prince Edward stood about two heads shorter than Link, who was by no means a short man. The young Prince certainly was as Link thought he would be, with long billowing robes of Royal Blue, the Royal Terminian mark embedded into the back. His face was a bit handsome, his brown eyes filled with merriness.
Link, by now dressed in a sleeveless blue tunic, casual yet strangely dressy, stood rigid against a marble wall, arms crossed. His pants were black, with matching black leather boots. On his right arm was tattooed a red dragon, jaws open and wings fully extended, the tail wrapping around the length of his arm. John's family coat of arms. Above the head of the dragon, the Royal Hylian Phoenix extended its wings, the triforce above its mighty head.
Yes, much had changed from the little boy Zelda had known five years ago as a thirteen year old.
The throne room was extremely spacious, large gold doors emblazoned with the symbol of the triforce guarded the innards, revealing the glory of Hyrule to all visiting foreigners. A long red carpet stretched from the entryway to the white marble steps that led to the throne. The throne itself was made of gold, silver, and precious gems. At the very top of the throne the triforce shone out in glittering splendor, guarding the one who inhabited the throne. Tapestries adorned the walls, depicting various people in Hylian history, the largest of the tapestries was bottle green, the image of a young man who looked vaguely similar to Link was sewed onto the fine fabric. The Master Sword, the legendary sword, held aloft in his left hand where the Triforce glittered menacingly. Around the man's head flittered a ball of light with thin, glasslike wings, bathing his handsome face in glowing light. The image was said to be the only accurate depiction of the legendary Hero of Time, who saved Hyrule from danger almost one hundred years ago.
Link however, was not paying attention to the startling similarity between him and the Hero of Legend, rather, he was busy being scolded by his father.
"Link, be in merry spirits for once," John said, glaring at his son, "I haven't seen you smile the whole time you've returned. Why not go speak to Prince Edward and Her Majesty?"
"I prefer quiet moments," Link replied, stubbornly closing his eyes.
John frowned, where had the loud, cheerful youngster gone? Was this some sort of rebellious teenager phase?
"Link, it is not respectful to ignore Prince Edward," John began.
"I am not ignoring him, I am keeping watch over the room, Father," Link replied, opening one eye. "Please, don't worry about me, I'm myself. Go guard the King, Father. I'll be alright."
John hesitantly left the young man leaning against the wall.
Link contemplated a few verses from a book he had recently read, trying to think of every possible meaning each passage could have. It was boring to think of, but at least he wasn't talking to the two Royals. He would do anything just to get out of the room and sit in the garden, reading the new book that he had gotten on his way to Hyrule.
His thoughts were interrupted as he heard the clacking of shoes against marble.
Looking up, Link saw Zelda making her way over to him, studying him with the same intensity as her father. He quickly studied the ground, which seemed so interesting to him lately, in an attempt to drive her away.
"Sir Link," she said, her voice a gentle whisper.
Link looked up at the young woman, his piercing blue eyes a bit softer than before.
"Hello, your Highness," Link said, inclining his head.
"Why do you stand here alone, Sir Link? You seem a bit stiff," Zelda said, smiling playfully, "Don't you wish to converse with others?"
"I prefer quiet moments, Highness," Link replied, "They give me time to think out my words and actions. Sometimes contemplate the past, present, and future."
Zelda nodded. "It is very unlike you, Sir Link. The person that I know would probably be out and talking loudly, laughing."
"Things change within five years. Sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse."
"That is true, and a very astute comment."
"Nay, Highness. Simply an observation," Link said, looking at the young Princess. "Shouldn't you be speaking to Prince Edward? Your wedding is what, but two months away?"
"Yes," Zelda replied, her tone bitter. "Yes, is it two months away. I loathe it…"
Link's eyebrows raised in surprise. Prince Edward, for all his boasting and rich clothes, was still a kind man. The two seemed to get along, so why would she loathe being married to him.
"You two seem to get along extremely well, why so uneager?" Link asked, cocking his head to the side.
"It is true that Edward is a kind man, but still…" Zelda trailed off, then continued on strong. "My heart belongs to no man. If this were not Hyrule's best hope, then I would remain unmarried for all my days."
Link was fairly shocked at the words coming from Zelda's mouth. Never before had he heard her being so defiant.
"Forgive me for being so personal, Sir Link," Zelda whispered, "Please forget everything I've said, it is not right to impose my problems upon you."
"Princess…" Link murmured, looking at his friend. The two held each others gazes for a long while, their eyes conversing. It was Link who finally broke the connection, getting to his feet and staring into her eyes.
"I understand your feelings, Highness," Link said, "Please excuse me, I must beg your leave." Bowing, Link turned and walked toward his father, never noticing that Zelda's eyes were upon him the whole time.
The only thing that he seemed to think of was how much had changed upon his arrival home. When they were children, they could talk freely, without use of title, and without all this bowing and fancy language. Link somehow longed for those days when they could do whatever they wished without stiff formalities.
Their speech together seemed so practiced… So unfeeling and uncaring… Very different from those days.
Still, Link knew that there was nothing he could do, Zelda was a Princess and he a lowly Knight. Therefore, it was only right that their friendship was now on different terms. But would they ever be able to speak freely as they had done to each other so long ago?
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